Another Christmas season comes and, oh so quickly goes. We spend weeks, and sometimes months preparing, and are given 12 days to celebrate, and yet, well before we are even half way through the 12 days, many are already bringing their trees down, ready to dispose of all the Holiday trimmings. I am not one to make a big fuss about trimming the house in a major way for the holidays. Just ask my kids. We are lucky to get a tree up and decorated at all, and maybe a wreath, and that is about it. But the metaphor of the rush to trim, the rush to take down, and the busy-ness of the season seems an apt metaphor for the general eagerness of a culture that can’t quite figure out what it means to slow down.
This year winter came early in Central New York. We had barely gotten through the first week of December when a major snow storm whipped up, dumping more than 4 feet of snow in as many days. As a local in this the Snow Belt region, I was out there shoveling my way out and my clients’ way in every day, early in the morning, before the sun was fully up, making certain that life did not skip a beat on account of a silly thing like snow! Winter is upon us, the days are getting shorter, the nights are colder and longer; it is the beginning of the season that includes many hours of darkness. Bears, and other wise creatures who know that many hours of darkness means a suitable shift in their day to day living, begin months of hibernation. We, as intelligent humans who are innovative and able to problem solve, heat our homes, snow blow, plow, or shovel our driveways, and miss out on this wonderful opportunity to shift from a faster pace of living to something that more resembles hibernation.
As I was shoveling my driveway many times this December in the days before Solstice, I began to contemplate the irony of the act of shoveling, and the wisdom of the bear’s hibernation. Mother Nature is offering us this opportunity to hunker down, get snowed in, have short days and long sleeps, and we are madly shoveling so we can continue our busy lives. Not only are we continuing our busy lives, but we also need to hurry up and prepare for the Holidays!! And just as the calm and quiet of the shortest day of the year arrives the madness reaches it’s peak. Maybe we are ready, and if not we stay up long nights to make sure we are. And then to celebrate finally we have large gatherings and do the massive work of food preparation, table setting, and clean up that exhausts us while we “vacation” from the “work” that we are usually paid for and likely behind on.
Before I begin to sound like Scrooge, I will say that I love family gatherings and the opportunity to gift and make offerings to my loved ones as much as the next person. I cannot help however, but observe and marvel at the contrast that we create as we enter into natures’ season of slowing down that might otherwise give us an opportunity to turn inwards. I make a point of offering myself at least a few hours of quiet alone time during the holiday season; over the years I have come to deeply appreciate this part of my holiday. I sometimes fantasize about what the world would feel like if there were such a “Holiday” where many hours, or even days(!!) of quiet reflection were expected and placed on the world calendar with the same degree of importance as the consuming holidays that we are so accustomed to. I cannot help but think that this is something that could go a long way towards creating space for the healing our world so badly needs.
May the Peace of the season be with you and all of your Loved ones.
Happy New Year!